Williams Peak P500 CC
Greenough Ridge P500

Sat, Feb 8, 2020

With: Sean Casserly
Daryn Dodge

Etymology
Story Photos / Slideshow Map GPX Profile

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I've managed to collect 293/301 peaks on the CC-list over the past decade or so, a questionable list that only questionable peakbaggers are bothering to persue. Because many on this list are private property, getting this far has been a good deal of work and I expected there might be five or six that I would never reach. Sean has done a lot of work to gain access to two of these, Williams Peak and Impassable Rocks. He contacted and befriended landowners, stayed at their AirBnB, and even did some trail work on another peak on the same land. He and Daryn had done Impassable Rocks back in December while I was in Hawaii and I was sorry to have missed it. Not wanting to pass up a chance for Williams, I readily joined in Sean's plan for Feb 8-9, responding to a list he had sent to half a dozen other interested parties. In the end, Daryn and I were the only ones to join him, much like our outing to Brush Mtn back in November. We met at the Leonard Lake Reserve, a collection of cabins that can be rented out, staying there for two nights. The place we rented had a ridiculous number of beds and sleeps something like 15 easily, but there were just five us this weekend, Asaka and her friend joining the three of us.

Williams Peak

Wiliams Peak is found in the Coast Ranges between US101 and Mendocino. The peak is located about four air miles northwest of Leonard Lake, but requires dropping into the Big River drainage that separates the two before an ascent can be made. The terrain is very rugged, with redwoods growing in the lower reaches and oak woodlands higher up. The area was extensively logged more than 100yrs ago, but the second growth is already quite majestic. Logging activities seem to have ceased for now as the landowners find it more lucrative to sell carbon credits than cut down the trees. Our route crossed several property boundaries, but the old logging roads that are found everywhere see very little traffic these days, mostly a few hunters and even fewer peakbaggers. From Leonard Lake we drove about mile up from the Mill Creek drainage over a ridge into the Rice Creek drainage, a tributary of Big River (Big River isn't so big here as it's the river's headwaters, but it becomes more sizeable where it exits into the Pacific Ocean at the estuary just south of Mendocino).

Starting off shortly before 8a, we descended an old logging road along Rice Creek, cutting off a few switchbacks with some steep drops through the mostly open forest understory. The first half of the route is pretty tame and matches the same route Sean and Daryn had used for Impassable Rocks. The first mile can be driven in ATVs but washouts block further motorized travel for the last two miles down to Big River. With the exception of an easy crossing of Rice Creek, we mostly stuck to the old roads and had little trouble getting to Big River in little over an hour. The Big River crossing turned out to be no more tricky than Rice Creek, though in times after a recent rain it would be another story. From here, our route diverged from the Impassable Rocks outing, followed mostly up a ridge showing a 4WD track on the topo map. We found this road to be alternately in good condition or overgrown and hard to follow. In one section that was particularly overgrown, we diverged to the west to find more forested slopes, eventually working around this area (the topo map shows it as a brushy area around the 1,200-foot level). The topo map shows the 4WD road converging with a better dirt road. It turned out to be somewhat better but just as unused. There is a ranch on the more open south side of Williams Peak at around 1,600ft, with several buildings visible during portions of our ascent. We were far enough away (3/4mi) that there was little chance of being noticed and we saw no activity in the vicinity. This was one of the few places where we had views and it was nice to see the fog that had filled the valleys earlier was now dissipating. At around the 2,200-foot level we crossed the best road we'd seen all morning and though this one was cleared and showed some vehicle use, it appears to be lightly so. The ranch to the south most likely is more regularly approached from the south and west. With less than half a mile to go, we continued up another 500ft through forest understory and the seemingly ever-present old logging roads. It was 11a by the time we pulled up onto the forested summit, a rounded knob buried in trees with no views but at least some rocks to sit and rest upon. We spent probably about 20min snacking and leaving a register for the dribble of peakbaggers we expect will visit after us.

Our return took longer than our ascent, though there was no good reason for it to have done so. We tried to make several improvements in our route to avoid the brushier parts, but these seemed to either dead-end or prove no better. We did enjoy a neat bit following a side creek descending the last 400ft to Big Creek, the only real Wilderness feel we had all day. It would be nearly 3p by the time we got back to the jeep, a few hours earlier than we expected at the beginning of the day. With almost three hours of daylight remaining, we decided to check out a second summit.

Greenough Ridge

This is the highpoint of a ridgeline found west of Leonard Lake. With plans to climb it the next day, Sean had spied it during our ascent of Williams Peak and worried that it would prove a class 5 affair with no easy way up. I dismissed this as unlikely, given that we were several miles away and could hardly judge it from that distance. A few hours would suffice for us to check it out. We drove several miles of muddy ranch roads, including a pass through the property of another homeowner (which we found later was one of the owners of the Leonard Lake Reserve, so no real issue). A dog barked as we passed through, but no humans were spotted. We had to clear one section of road with a downed log and inched through several tight spaces, enough to keep Sean on the edge of his seat as he worried we could slip off the edge of the roadway. We got within about 3/4mi of the summit and could have gotten even closer, but decided to stop where we had a good turnaround spot. The hike proved the most interesting of the day even though we were unable to reach the summit. Approaching from the southeast on road, open terrain and forest understory, we found ourselves along a brushy, knife-edge section only 300ft from the main pinnacle when we were stopped by a short drop and had to reverse course. Finding a way around the base of the knife-edged section, we found easier going to a notch on the north side of the summit pinnacle. Steep slopes through forest understory led up and tightly around the west side to the base of the rocks where the route suddenly changes from class 2 to class 5 with perhaps 25ft to go. We identified two ways it might be climbed, Sean trying the steeper & looser option, myself trying the firmer but more exposed way, both failing. Sean's route on the southwest side went up a near-vertical crack with rock pieces coming out regularly as he struggled to make headway. He felt he could probably make it up, but doubted he could reverse the moves. My route was steep only at the very top but I could not find good holds to justify continuing. It did have several places that would take protection and I think with a rope and gear it would be fairly safe. Sean seemed to be the most frustrated of the three of us - he really wanted to get atop it - but Daryn and I were fine with knowing we could do it on a future trip. It was almost 5p by the time we returned to the jeep and called it a day. Asaka and Jenny were back at the cabin preparing a mexican feast for us - and that seemed like a far better idea than messing around on questionable rock for another hour...

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